The Stone of Earth: The Struggle of Conquerors and Protectors in Afghanistan

1 June 2022

Al Jazeera Centre for Studies released the electronic version of The Stone of Earth: The Struggle of Conquerors and Protectors in Afghanistan by Ahmed Vall Ould Dine today, 1 June 2022.

In the book, whose paper edition was released in December 2021, the author recounts the last days of the US invasion of Afghanistan and conveys his observations in a literary style, connecting what he saw to what he had read about the political and social history of the country.

After the introduction, he discusses the geostrategic importance of Afghanistan and the reasons behind the interest of great empires throughout the ages in controlling it as well as the steadfastness and perseverance of the Afghan people in their struggle to expel them.

In addition, Ould Dine talks about his encounters and dialogues with Taliban leaders and expresses his impressions of the development of their intellectual formation, their view of reality and the different ways in which they deal with it.

Also, he dedicated an entire chapter to Mullah Muhammad Omar in which he presents in-depth insights into the latter’s thought, personality and the way he dealt with peers as well as the way he led Taliban during the US invasion and the United States and Saudi Arabia’s demand that he hand over the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, for trial on charges of being responsible for the events of 9/11.

The author also clarifies that nature of Afghan religiosity, the role of tribalism in the religious, social and political value system in the country and the difficulty of imposing foreign cultures or lifestyles on this kind of society.

In the introduction, he says

I felt, as I packed my bags to go to Afghanistan to cover the US withdrawal, that I was writing the first letters of a journalistic history that would live on. I also felt, as I wandered in its cities and villages, that refreshing inner inflow that every historian, or everyone who is aware of history, feels in in places full of civilizational vigour. The mountains of Afghanistan are not a grey place hidden from the winds of history. Rather, they have been, since antiquity, an amazing arena for man’s successes and misfortunes, and a vast theatre for him to demonstrate his impassioned humanity and his precipitous devilishness. Historically, Afghanistan has been a hub of polarisation for the makers and detractors of civilisations since Alexander the Great, the Sassanian rulers and the legions of Genghis Khan. And that spot always remained an eternal corridor for invaders and merchants, knights and poets, patrons and slaves. But invaders' fondness for this country is matched by the epic stubbornness of its people; the Afghan has remained a solid, well-established Hindu Kush rock. He has proven throughout history that he is a living embodiment of the phrase used by the leader of the Abbasid da’wah to describe his military commander, Abu Muslim Khorasani: “the stone of the earth.” This intense phrase refers to the stability of the heavens, the solidity of conscience and attachment to place. These facts prompted me to write these chapters to put the events unfolding in Afghanistan into a broader context. I tried to not be like many journalists who are blinded by the dry daily news that are stripped of their historical roots and civilizational conditions. Perhaps the outlook that combines the daily and the historical, and the momentary and the civilizational, gives one stability in a volatile world, and provides an understanding of the successive daily news. Therefore, I chose to write these chapters and have them come out during the unfolding of events in hope that they might contribute to the removal of some connotations from them.

Ahmed Vall Ould Dine is a journalist and field correspondent for Al Jazeera Media Network. He comes from an academic background and has published a number of books, such as Hosted by the Gaddafi Brigades (published by the Arab Network for Research and Publishing in 2012) and the novels, Al-Hadqi (published in 2018 by Meskiliani Publishing) and Al-Shaibani (published in 2019 by Dar Al-Tanweer).